The Hippo


May 29, 2020








Dave Walsh

Snowmobiling event

Fish and Game is holding the Tri-state Reciprocal Snowmobile Weekend Jan. 26 through Jan. 28. The New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine event gives snowmobile enthusiasts a chance to explore new trails in northern New England. During the weekend, all legally registered snowmobiles in New Hampshire will be allowed to ride in Vermont and Maine. Operators must also comply with out-of-state laws. For example, riders in Vermont must have liability insurance. Conversely, snowmobilers from Vermont and Maine will be able to ride on New Hampshire trails during the weekend.

Love the Snow
Even winter grinches can find an activity they enjoy

By Ryan Lessard

 Dave Walsh of Antrim is a captain in the law enforcement division of New Hampshire Fish and Game. Stuck in a skiing (or ski-lodge-sitting-in) rut? He has some advice for new winter activities to try.

What’s the best outdoor activity for someone who usually hates winter?
I would suggest snowmobiling because, if they dress properly, it can be a lot of fun. You get to get out and see parts of New Hampshire that you normally wouldn’t get to see. And, although it can be cold, it’s not typically as cold as ice fishing, and it’s not typically as dangerous as winter hiking. I guess winter hiking could be divided into two things: just a casual hike or an above-tree-line excursion. So, casual winter hiking would be very similar to snowmobiling, as far as getting out and seeing things. But, snowmobiling adds to that level of excitement and travel that they wouldn’t normally get.
What’s a good way to try snowmobiling to see if it’s something you’d enjoy?
We offer free safety classes [at Fish and Game] so they get to learn a little bit about … everything from basic mechanics and operation of the snow machine, to proper gear and safety. And then, there are various rental agencies up north that will rent a snowmobile to you and they also do snowmobiling tours, so you’re not alone and it’s usually somebody that’s familiar with the area and familiar with the machines. So, if you go out on a tour, you don’t have any chance of getting stranded or that type of thing.
What are some important safety tips for snowmobiling?
One, they need to know the capabilities of the machine and the mechanics of the machine so that they can kind of self-rescue if the machine breaks down — that type of thing. And also, the proper equipment, riding equipment; helmets, the safety gear, not only for safety but also for the weather, be it the type of snow pants and boots — pac boots — to the type of helmet to wear.
Why should people consider hiking in the winter?
No. 1, it’s great exercise and, No. 2, it gets them out to see New Hampshire at a different time of the year that they don’t normally get to see. And we have some great areas to hike, not only in the summer but in the winter as well. If you’re going to brave the winter, and you want to get some exercise and get out, you might as well do it in a place other than your backyard — get out and see the state. New Hampshire’s a beautiful state and we have a lot of hiking opportunities.
How do you prepare differently for a winter hike as opposed to a summer hike?
Preparing for the unexpected. The weather … and the temperature is the big thing. The weather can change in an instant. Unlike a lot of summer hiking, you may actually have to turn back depending on the weather when you’re out hiking. For example, when you’re going to do one of our 4,000-footers or above and you’re halfway up and the weather is drastically different than it was down below when you started — which is not uncommon in New Hampshire — you have to be prepared with the right equipment or clothes or be able to make the decision to turn back. … Always have an extra layer of clothes, water, a headlamp … always leave your plans with someone. … Try to hike with somebody else and not alone. 
How would you convince a skeptic that they might actually enjoy ice fishing?
Very similar to snowmobiling, we actually have free ‘let’s go fishing’ classes, like introduction to ice fishing, where it covers the basics of what you need to go ice fishing, where to go, what to fish for, the techniques, the bait and tackle used for certain species wherever you are that you’re fishing. Again, it will cover anything from clothing and safety to … the best type of auger to drill a hole and how to test the ice safety, ice thickness. … If you’re looking for new activities, it gets you out there. Fishing can be fun. … A lot of people make a day of it. They have the hot cocoa and the food, they have a big family event out there with everybody and it can be a lot of fun.
How does ice fishing work? Can you explain the basics for a beginner?
The first thing you want to do is test the ice to make sure it’s safe, so you have a chisel or an auger where you drill a hole. You start off at the shoreline where you come on, test the ice thickness, and then every 50 to 100 yards as you go out, you want to test it again because ice doesn’t freeze the same [everywhere]. … Then you take your auger and you drill holes, scoop the ice out of them, and set up your ice fishing devices, your ‘traps’ as they call them. You want to check with your law digest to make sure you [follow the regulations].
What’s the biggest misunderstanding about ice fishing?
A lot of people think that it’s cold and miserable and not very fun, but … there are plenty of days where there is no wind and it’s 30 degrees and sunny and it’s a great day to be out, and people love it.
Should first-timers go fishing with an experienced ice-fisher at the start? Is it usually a social event?
It doesn’t have to be a social event. But for a beginner, I would recommend it, because there’s also a learning curve — what bait to use, how to put the bait on the hook, the depth that you want depending on what species you’re targeting. … If you’re with someone who’s knowledgeable, they can save you a lot of time and effort … on how to be successful.
What are some of the best locations for ice fishing?
Any what we call ‘warm water ponds,’ which are kind of the shallow ponds that have the bass, pickerel the perch. … That’s where the most action is. … The pickerel are very voracious eaters and … it’s not slow fishing. If you have those warmer species in the pond then you can do pretty well and you can usually have a very busy day ‘chasing flags’ as they say, which is what happens with a fish … [on a hook]. Whereas, you go to trout ponds … where there’s not a lot of fish species, you’re just looking at trout, it can be very slow fishing. 

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